How to pack a backpack?

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Abisko 55 Abisko 55 by Michael Pollak, via Flickr, Creative Commons Licence

So, you have picked your backpack based on size and type and you have learned what NOT to pack. Now, let's say a few things about how to pack that big pile of stuff on your bed for your backpacking trip.

Your backpack is the limit here. It does have numerous pockets, spaces, straps and hooks, but there is only so much stuff you can pack in there. So, before starting to compress everything you have in there, it is advisable to plan a bit.



- Is it a winter or summer trip?
- Where is Your destination located?
- What are the prices of toiletry and clothes on your destination?
- are there public washrooms available?
- Are you carrying your own things or is your back a joint ride for your family and friends?

Let's answer a few of these question in a few sentences. Winter trips require warmer clothes (usually thicker), require layered clothing (multiple pieces) and have to keep your hands, feet and head warm (extra socks, gloves, hats). Keep that in mind along with a fact that you might get wet so having extra pairs is important; hence - more space required in your bag. That leads us to availability of public washing service - if you can wash your pants for an affordable price, why carrying 3 or 4 pairs when 2 will suffice? As for personal hygiene, you can save a lot of space by purchasing necessities on site - soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc.

pen and paperNow, when you have answered those questions, take a piece of paper and write down everything you think you will need. Rule of thumb is to think about it moving from your head downwards - scalp (hat), face (shaving, washing teeth, soap, crèmes), neck (scarf), torso (shirts, jacket), etc. By the time you get to your feet, you will probably have about 2 pages filled.

When the list is done, put everything you have written besides your empty backpack. Obviously, it's time to revise the list because all of THAT is not going to fit in such a small bag. So, discard everything you have doubts about - if you THINK will you need it, you won't. Other rule, carry only the stuff you are OK with loosing. Bags often get lost in transit and a tourist could be a target for thieves on your destination.



We will refrain ourselves from advising you what to pack or not to pack. There are other guides for that. Let's use the space in our backpack to the fullest and in the most comfortable manner.

The backpack is best to load considering weight of items. We borrowed this nice graphic from Osprey, which makes extremely nice backpacks.

backpack loading weight

As you can see, the heaviest items should be placed close to your spine. Not to high (so you don't walk feeling tippy) and not too low (so it doesn’t feel saggy). The goal is to achieve an optimal center of gravity. With that in mind, you should also distribute the weight evenly from side to side. The examples of "heavy" stuff are food and water stash.

When you handled the heavy part, tightly pack clothes and lighter stuff around it so it doesn't move inside your pack. On top of it all, place your emergency clothes so it is easily obtainable if you get wet or dirty along the way. Any empty space left, fill with utensils, hygiene necessities, etc.



Every good backpack has easily reachable outside pockets; a lot of them you can open while the backpack is still on your back. These are great places to put your daily needed items in: rain gear, extra socks, backpack rain cover, guide-book, snacks, water, sunscreen, insect repellent, first-aid kit, etc. Other items could include a roll of duct tape, extra batteries for your gadgets, a flashlight, a map, toilet paper, cables, chargers, etc.

It is important to accent that all of the outer compartments can be a bait for pickpockets; you won’t even feel them being opened. So DO NOT pack your money, documents or valuables (jewelry, cell phones, tablets, etc.) in them. Also, keep in mind that side and outside compartments often get bumped along the way so keeping sunglasses or other breakable objects in them is not advisable.


Cheap carabinersOTHER "PLACES"

Many backpacks have various hooks and loops for securing equipment that is "hangable", so use small carabiners or locks to utilize them. The bottom part can be used to strap a blanket, sleeping bag or something similar if you don't plan on sleeping in a Hostel/hotel. Also, that’s the ideal place for shoes and other footwear.





After you have stuffed it all into a backpack, tighten the side compression straps. You'll keep everything snug in place, minimizing internal movement during travel. Do a "jump-test", see if anything moves inside the pack.The last thing, put the backpack on the floor and go to sleep. Tomorrow is a big day.

Congratulate yourself that you managed to put everything in your pack and it doesn't feel uncomfortable.



- Stage your packing - don't just start stuffing your gear in there
- Never pack to capacity - try not to fill more than 75% of your backpack when you start your trip. You will probably pick up something on the way (gifts, souvenirs), and that empty space will come handy. Also, if your pack gets picked on the airport for a random check, those people WILL NOT be able to put it all back in
- Always pack to the corners - there is a LOT of usable space in those deep dark places of your pack
- Roll your clothes - it will keep them wrinkle-free
- Fill your shoes - socks, batteries, gloves, etc. - it can all fit in there
- Always go multi-purpose - either with tools or neutral colored clothes
- Assume your backpack will be mistreated, so protect your sensitive gear
- Assume that your backpack will get wet - have a rain cover handy and put your electronics into plastic zip locks
- Clearly mark and tag your luggage


>> Choosing the right Backpack

>> What NOT to pack

>> A child and a Backpack

Last modified on Sunday, 25 May 2014 13:24


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